Umbrian Serenade founder Paulo Faustini and I at Il Panciolle, in Spoleto, Italy
I'm in Umbria withdrawal. I thought I was Ok, but I'm not. I want to be back, sitting at lunch with my Umbrian Serenade buddies at Il Panciolle having that wonderful dessert with peaches and Cointreau. I've replicated it twice already, but you know, the peaches aren't the same! There is a dolce about Umbria that extends to everything, from the light, the taste of peaches, and the color of egg yokes which actually have an umber color to them. The acoustics are sweet too. I've already written about the concert at Norcia. This post includes one piece from that concert, perhaps my favorite on the program. The video was taken by a family member of a participant (yes..you can come as non-singer), and while you can hear all kinds of things in the background- birds twittering (I think a door was open), the audience etc, it shows the viewer a whiff of what the program involves. What an amazing space to sing in! I've written this repeatedly, but it still astonishes me. After all, how often do you get to sing under 14th century frescos in an acoustic that sets your hair on fire?
I should be writing about music in this paragraph, but I really have food on the brain. As a "Choral and Cultural Tasting in the Green Heart of Italy," the Umbrian Serenades achieves both aspects with aplomb: I haven't had so many beautiful and unremittingly amazing meals in a long time. Like the dessert mentioned above, they linger on the palate. The wine tasting was memorable too, none the least of which was my knocking over my glass on the tile floor (it was sitting at my feet), and being told to put my finger in the spilled red and dab it on my neck for good luck. No. I wasn't drunk. Just giddy with joy with the simple and exquisite pleasure of bruschetta topped with virgin olive oil and rubbed with raw garlic. Heaven with antipasti. Oh yes. I brought back a couple of bottles from the vineyard. All gone now, along with the Grappa di Sagrantino. What to do? Return next summer!
It's not often that you get to travel to a beautiful place and rehearse and concertize for two weeks and have a heck of a great time doing it (Paulo and his co-founder Holly Phares have found the perfect balance between work and play..or should I say play and play?) Perhaps it's only the musician who understands this, but there is a joy in music making that you don't find anywhere else, though I should amend this by saying that singing is in itself a distinct joy. Singing with others chorally? It only magnifies the effect. Add wonderful spaces to sing in into the mix -with ardent audiences - and you have spontaneous combustion.
I won't exaggerate here: I cried every day at some point. The music, the warmth and comradery of my colleagues, the purple hills at dusk, the care with which everyone gave their all to Art, the sublime experience of a magical evening, sitting in front of the beautifully lit Duomo, drinking Proescco, and talking about life. I had been to Spoleto in 1985 as part of the Westminster Choir, but this was more than a fond trip down memory lane. This was connecting to what mattered in life.
Enjoy the Victoria. I think of his music as the paintings of El Greco in motion (both the painter and the composer are Spanish). Elongated with beautiful lines, a conversation with a scholar after a concert reminded me that El Greco was originally a Byzantine iconographer. The curious thing about Byzantine icons is that there aren't any straight lines. And there aren't any in Victoria either.
The road to heaven is full of curves, as are the hills of Umbria.
Vere languores nostros ipse et dolores nostros portavit cujus livore sanati sumus.
Dulce lignum, dulce clavos, dulcia ferens pondera quae sola fuistis digna sustinere regem cloelorum et Domininum.
Truly, our failings he has taken upon himself and our sorrows his had borne. By his wounds we have been saved.
O sweet wood, O sweet nails that bore his sweet burden, which alone were worthy to support the King and Lord of Heaven.